The Beltway Kids
Jude Wanniski
November 6, 1996


Memo To: Brian Lamb, C-SPAN
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Bill Kristol & The Weekly Standard

Bob Novak tells me he was on your "Washington Journal" Monday morning, and that you asked him about The Weekly Standard's animus toward me. He told me he said it had to do with the Cold War, which I think is over, and Kristol does not. Well, that's more or less in the ballpark.

What's really going on is that Bill is a silver-spoon intellectual, whose father Irving Kristol and mother Gertrude Himmelfarb are two of the genuinely great intellectuals of our time. Also, John Podhoretz is the silver-spoon intellectual baby of Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, another twosome who have distinguished themselves in the last half century in the world of ideas. Irving was one of my intellectual godfathers, and I still address him as Don Corleone. Midge was the editor of my book,  The Way the World Works.

In the world of commerce, it is a challenge for a rich kid to put his nose to the grindstone and demonstrate that he is as good, if not better, than his parents. You need only add up the bucks. In the world of ideas, think how much harder it is, without dollars to keep score. Bill and John are trying to get smart as fast as they can. Alas, in the world of ideas, smarts sometimes are inaccessible without years. You just can't get to be a wise old man until you are old, or at least have been around the track more than once or twice.

Bill Kristol and John Podhoretz are going to be wise old men someday. The hard part is that sooner or later this will require they do their own thinking. At the moment, while they are no longer in short pants, they are still in knickers. Neither has yet had an original idea, one they did not crib from their elders. Bill did get close when he talked Dan Quayle into denouncing Candace Bergen and Murphy Brown. He also scored half a point in his recent Foreign Affairs article, written with (by) Robert Kagen, in which he argued for an American Imperium in the 21st Century based on Brute Force.

They have been having great fun lately exposing the fact that for the last 20 years Jack Kemp and I have been doing our best to fix the world, with the help of their fathers, Irving and Norman, and that all is not yet tickety-boo. They would like us to step aside and give them their chance, but I owe it to their parents to have it come not so easy. You know how it is, Brian, kids these days.